The central government requested state governments/union territory administrations to explore the possibility of introducing millets under the PM POSHAN Scheme preferably in the districts where eating millets is a culturally accepted food habit.
- NITI Aayog has also been advocating the need to introduce millets in the mid-day meal programme (now PM POSHAN Scheme), moving away from rice and wheat.
- In September 2021, the Union Cabinet approved the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman or PM-POSHAN for providing one hot cooked meal in Government and Government-aided schools with the financial outlay of Rs 1.31 trillion.
- The scheme replaced the national programme for mid-day meal in schools or Mid-day Meal Scheme.
- It has been launched for an initial period of five years (2021-22 to 2025-26).
- Primary (1-5) and upper primary (6-8) schoolchildren are currently entitled to 100 grams and 150 grams of food grains per working day each, to ensure a minimum of 700 calories.
- It also covers students of balvatikas (children in the 3-5 year age group) from pre-primary classes.
- Use of locally-grown nutritional food items will be encouraged from “school nutrition gardens” for boosting the local economic growth, and will also include involvement of Farmers Producer Organizations (FPO) and Women Self Help Groups in the implementation of the scheme.
- The scheme has a provision for supplementary nutrition for children in aspirational districts and those with high prevalence of anaemia.
- It does away with the restriction on the part of the Centre to provide funds only for wheat, rice, pulses and vegetables.
- Currently, if a state decides to add any component like milk or eggs to the menu, the Centre does not bear the additional cost. Now that restriction has been lifted.
- The Centre has directed the states and the UTs to switch to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system for providing compensation to the cooks and helpers working under the scheme.
- A nutrition expert is to be appointed in each school whose responsibility is to ensure that health aspects such as Body Mass Index (BMI), weight and haemoglobin levels are addressed.
- A social audit of the scheme has also been mandated for each school in each state to study the implementation of the scheme, which was so far not being done by all states.